Friday, March 8, 2013

SRAP Alumnus Leo K. Perez Jr.: The Value of Learning Time Management

Going to college is not just about learning the specifics of your major. It’s also about learning how to be an independent, successful adult. For Leo K. Perez Jr., a sophomore at the University of Wyoming majoring in Petroleum Engineering, learning these important life skills began when he was in the Summer Research Apprentice Program (SRAP) as a high school student.
“SRAP gives you a little bit of an insight into what being on your own is going to be like,” Leo says. “In the program you’re pretty much independent and on your own. You have to take care of yourself and manage your time. I think that SRAP was pretty helpful and it helped me get a pretty good feel for the UW campus too.”
SRAP is an EPSCoR program which aims to encourage more underrepresented groups to pursue degrees and careers in science and to further their education after high school. The program gives students hands-on experiences in science labs at UW, where they conduct their own projects with a mentor and are paid to do so. Leo was in SRAP two years in a row, in 2009 and 2010.
“The first time I worked with Dr. Mark Gomelsky in Molecular Biology,” Leo says. “And then the second time I was with Kiona Ogle in the Botany department. That’s actually how I got my job. When Kiona went to Arizona, one of the grad students moved to a different lab and I got my job through him.”
Leo is an undergraduate lab technician in one of the Botany labs at UW. As a SRAP student, he studied water uptake and the ecosystem of sagebrush. The project has expanded since then, and now he is working on the broader grassland ecosystem.
While Botany and Petroleum Engineering do not exactly mesh well, Leo has found that his involvement in the lab has contributed to his education.
“I am learning the research process and how to run experiments, which could be valuable because I am thinking about staying at UW and getting my Master’s degree,” Leo says.
In his first two years at UW, Leo has been involved in a variety of academic as well as extra-curricular activities, including the collegiate Future Farmers of America (FFA). He has enjoyed having familiar faces from high school in UW’s FFA and networking with new people.
“College in general has been a lot of fun,” he says. “It was pretty difficult at first because I was adjusting to everything, including big classes, but I’m in the groove now and I’m doing pretty well with everything.”
As he reflects on the last few years, he looks again at SRAP. It introduced him to different fields of science but also to a group of new friends he would not have met in his hometown of Glendo, Wyoming.
“The whole experience in general was a complete blast!” he says. “You really get a taste of all different cultures. In Wyoming, you don’t get to experience that too much. Both summers in SRAP we had students from all over the country, so you really meet people from a lot of different backgrounds. I always thought that was pretty cool.”
This diversity and networking is exactly what EPSCoR aims for in SRAP and what SRAP encourages in the broader scientific community. 
The deadline for this year’s SRAP applications is March 15th. More detail and applications can be found at:

By Kali S. McCrackin

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